by Ruth Hagen
Ruth Hagen’s stunning debut novel is one of those books that really gets inside your head and your soul. It is a story of hope, of opportunities and self-discovery. But it is also a book about death and loss. The only certainty about life is that it has a sell by date, the only control we have is how we live the bits in-between and how we approach the inevitable end.
There is a thread of grief that runs throughout the book as the main characters each learn in their own ways how to come to terms with loss and regret. And although loss is at the heart of each character’s tale, there is also a great deal of love and hope as well. If I make the book sound in any way morbid that is not my intention. It is charmingly uplifting and full of optimism and joy. It is this conflict within the narrative I found particularly compelling.
In taking up a position as assistant to reclusive writer Anthony Peardew, Laura Darby hope to find some purpose and direction in her life. But Peardew is not your average writer or employer. His life is dominated by the tragedy of losing the love of his life on the very morning of their wedding. Since then he has spent his life collecting lost items and attempting to reunite them with their owners, including a biscuit tin containing what looks like cremated remains.
Running parallel to Anthony and Laura’s tale is the story of Eunice and Bomber. Theirs is a story that began back in 1974. Theirs is a story of unrequited love and mutual comfort. The worlds of Eunice, Bomber, Anthony and Laura are woven together by a single thread that will eventually bring the two stories together in an ending that is both moving and oddly tragic.
I read an interview recently with Ruth Hagen I which the book was described as “up-lit”. Whilst I have never heard the phrase before, I can guess what it means and suppose that it actually quite apt, although I am not sure that any label will fit this well constructed and beautifully written story.
The Keeper of Lost Things is a wonderfully uplifting book. I loved the characters and their stories and look forward to reading more from this very promising new writer.